LAFAYETTE â Growing up, Deirdre Appelhans’ grandmother was a children’s author and her father loved books. Wherever she lived or traveled as a child, her family took her to second-hand bookstores. It gave her a love of reading that she will carry into her adult life.
“I love books,” Appelhans said. âI am one of those people who consider books as friends. They had a huge part in my life. I spent an awful lot of time in used bookstores growing up. Before, there were many more. Â»
So when Louisville’s iconic secondhand bookstore The Book Cellar closed in 2019, Appelhans wanted to do something about it, to preserve the kind of secondhand bookstore in the area she’d want to visit. She enlisted her longtime friend Barbara Hunting as a business partner, and the two purchased The Book Cellar’s inventory and naming rights.
“She asked me if I wanted a business partner,” Appelhans said. “I said yes.’ It really was that simple, we went on a hunch and jumped in with faith that we were going to land.
Appelhans and Hunting found space at 129 N. Harrison Ave. in Lafayette, in a building that once housed part of Lafayette Lumber. The 100-plus-year-old building needed major renovations, including gutting the interior, before the new bookstore could open.
After the remodeling was complete, Appelhans and Hunting were preparing to open when they faced another hurdle: government closures of businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
âIt was terrifying because we spent all this time remodeling this building,â Appelhans said. “We felt like it couldn’t be how it ended.”
Once their store â now named The Read Queen â was finally able to open on the eve of Father’s Day in 2020, the results were evident.
âPeople actually read books,â Appelhans said. âPeople really like books. There is a place for e-readers, but people really like to read a book.
Their location in Old Town Lafayette meant The Read (pronounced “red”) Queen was in a prime position to capture foot traffic, and word of mouth began to spread.
âWord of mouth was so important,â Appelhans said. âWe saw wonderful community support. The kids ride bikes, come in and buy books, then read on the porch. Many people started walking towards the store. That’s when we felt like we had something that people really, really want. A place to go, a place where they can see books and have a community hangout. It was very comforting.
In addition to books, The Read Queen also has a cafe that serves coffee, espresso, tea, cakes, scones, and other baked goods. They also sell goods and gifts.
They have also started to step up the events they organize. The store has expanded to have a book lounge in the back where they host a book club. During Lafayette’s Art Night Out series of summer events, The Read Queen hosted art workshops with local artists.
They are also working with East Simpson Coffee Co., located across the street, to launch a Lafayette Harvest Festival. It should start on October 29.
And in the meantime, they will continue to be a proof of concept that people will always support a used bookstore.
“It’s so much fun,” Appelhans said. âWhen I’m there every day, I’m surrounded by people who want to be there and who are excited and happy to be there. My job is to find fun, cool, neat things to put in the store and talk to people who are happy. It’s amazing work.
Editor’s Note: This story has been corrected to note that the building at 129 N. Harrison Ave. once housed part of Lafayette Lumber.